You may have seen the #Chefs4ALR hashtag on social media over the past weeks with some of the province's chefs holding signs saying "Farmland is important to me". On Thursday MLAs will vote in Victoria on controversial Bill 24; which proposes changes to the Agricultural Land Commission. Chefs across the province have been protesting this bill as they believe it will risk BC farmland, which may affect the ability of farmers to produce their award-winning produce for generations to come. In short, the bounty that begins in the fields and ends on your plate could be in jeopardy if this bill goes through. Chef Scott Jaeger, who represented Canada in the Bocuse d'Or, won gold medals for the Canadian National Culinary team and is chef/owner at the Peartree restaurant in Burnaby has been at the forefront of the campaign against the bill with the rest of the Chef's Table Society of BC. Here chef Jaeger writes an open letter, calling on people to join the protest before the vote this week.
Bill 24 will be voted on this week and if passed will weaken the the independent governing of British Columbia's protected farmland. Forty years ago government had the foresight to protect our food security by putting it in the hands of an independent commission (ALC) and this week we could see that drastically changed. Farmland in the hands of a political party will always be subject to ulterior motives, thus affecting the food we put on the plate in this province.
A mere 5% of British Columbia land falls within the protection of the Agriculture Land Reserve (ALR). The foresight of our legislation to create the ALR over 40 years ago is now in jeopardy with bill 24. We need to be accountable for decisions we make today not only for sustainability of the present but also what we leave in the future. Chefs and Restauranteurs have worked hard over the past 40 years to support our farms for not only the food they produce but also the culture they bring to our industry. Growing local food is not a thing of the past it is our present and our future, never has the demand been higher for locally sourced nutritious food.
Bill 24 proposes to divide the Agriculture land reserve into 2 zones, the changes being put forward are in zone 2 which contains 90% of the protected land. This will essentially open the door to remove 90% of the mere 5% of B.C.'s ALR.
The ALR was created to protect a very valuable asset by ensuring land-planning decisions for agricultural land were not made for political or short-term reasons. The decision makers at the Agricultural Land Commission are currently independent and free of an outside agenda. Bill 24 changes that, greatly weakening the independence of the Commission by allowing the government to easily appoint decision-makers who may not prioritize the protection of agricultural land. Bill 24 also makes it much easier for agricultural land to be removed from the ALR by adding new open-ended and undefined categories such as "economic" or "social" reasons that allow land to be removed.
The time is now to let your MLA know that farm land is important to you! Our politicians are constantly facing many challenges within our government and our governing body is trying to focus on many tasks. Please do not allow our food security and farming culture to slip through the cracks. Let your MLA know that know that Bill 24 is happening too fast and needs to be reviewed and receive more consultation, before we pass a bill that will make such a drastic change to our food security and culinary culture.
So, please take a minute to click here and write to your MLA.
· Chef's Table Society of BC [Official Site]
· BC Food Systems Network [Official Site]